Bulletin for Sunday, June 20, 2021

223 West College Avenue, Bluffton, OH 45817
June 20, 2021
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Rev. Katherine Beckett (567-226-1009) Church (419-358-5641)
E-mail: blufftonstjohnsucc@gmail.com
Website: http://www.blufftonstjohns.com

No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here!

Prelude “The King of Love My Shepherd Is” arr. Dale Wood


*Song of Preparation “Come, Thou Fount…” P. 68

*Call to Worship (based on Psalm 51:1-10)

One: O Holy God, how great you are! On the first day of the week, we commemorate your creation of the world and all that is.
Many: Holy God, send forth your Spirit and renew the face of the earth.
One: O Holy God, how great you are! On the first day of the week, we commemorate the resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior, from the dead.
Many: Holy God, create in us a pure heart and renew a steadfast spirit within us.
One: O Holy God, how great you are!
Many: On the first day of the week, we celebrate in song the presence of the Holy Spirit in the church and throughout the whole world. Amen.

*Prayer of Thanksgiving
Covenant God, we push you away, but you never let go. We turn away from you and even try to run away from you. But you never let us go. Hold us tight, almighty God. Embrace us with your never-ending love. Never let us go. Amen.

*Hymn “Softly and Tenderly” P. 348

Time with the Children

Prayer for Illumination
Holy God, help us to hear your holy word that we may truly
understand; that in understanding we may believe; and
believing, we may truly live in faithfulness and obedience,
seeking your honor and glory in all that we do. Through Christ
our Lord, Amen.

Hebrew Testament Reading Exodus 32:7-14
Epistle Reading 1 Timothy 1:12-17
Gospel Reading Luke 15:1-10

One: Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church.
Many: Thanks be to God!

Sermon The Heart of the Gospel Rev. Katherine Beckett

*Hymn “Amazing Grace” P. 422
(1, 2, 4, 5)

*Litany For Lost and Found+

One: Loving God, finder of lost sheep,
Many: Friend to sinners and rejects;
One: We look to your son, Jesus
Many: The embodiment of perfect Love.
One: We confess that we have been so preoccupied
with the ninety-nine
Many: That we have overlooked the one.
One: We confess that we have judged and marginalized,
pushed to the fringes
Many: Those beloveds whom society has rejected.
One: If we have been the one rejected or lost,
Many: Help us to forgive the ninety-nine.
One: If we have rejected our own selves, or deemed ourselves
unworthy of your attention,
Many: Let your love find us.
One: If we, in our pain, have been resistant to your love,
blaming you for our rejection,
Many: Open our eyes to the truth of your welcome.
One: Grant us now hearts of compassionate mercy,
Many: Full of lovingkindness.
One: May we go out into the world, offering hope,
offering mercy, offering love,
Many: Offering an invitation to a joyful feast:
The Kingdom of God, open to all.

Pastoral Prayer and Lord’s Prayer

*Closing Hymn “Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us P. 440
(1, 3, 4)



*Postlude “There’s A Wideness in God’s Mercy” arr. Gerald Peterson


*Please stand if you are able.
+Written by Rev. Fran Pratt, Pastor at Peace of Christ Church
in Round Rock, TX

Welcome to worship at St. John’s! We wish a blessed Father’s Day to the dads and father figures among us, and a blessed Sabbath day to all!

Flowers this morning are provided by Nancy and Ed Yeager in honor of fathers Mac Davies and Mark Koch; in memory of Roy Young, Fred Swank, Harold Young, Albert Hansen, and Elmer Yeager, and in honor of Ed Yeager.
Wednesday, June 30, 6 p.m., you are invited to come, just as you are, to taste and see if circle writing is for you. The gathering takes place in the gazebo at the Bluffton Presbyterian Church. Circle will begin at 6:30 p.m. and conclude at 8:30 p.m. Bring a chair, notebook, and writing instrument. Circle is hosted by Rev. Katherine Beckett and Corrie Reed, graduates of the Wellstreams Program for Spiritual Formation and the Art of Spiritual Direction. To register, contact Pastor Katherine. Cost for this event is $10.00. In case of inclement weather, the event will be held at St. John’s UCC in Oppermann Hall.

Everyone is invited to attend the gazebo dedication on the lawn at the Bluffton Presbyterian Church on Saturday, June 26, at 12 noon. The rain date is Sunday, June 27. Please bring a lawn chair. Music will be provided by The Dave Sycks Bluffton Brass Quintet.

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Pushing the Boat Out (Father’s Day) Mark 4:35-41

What names for God did you learn as a child? Many Christians were raised to call God by the name Father. Today, on this Father’s Day, give some thought to that name for God. Is it nurturing for you? Or is it difficult for you to picture a loving Father God?

If calling God “Father” is hard for you, don’t worry. The Bible contains many names and images for God, and the United Church of Christ encourages expansive language in naming and praising the Holy. Turning to scripture as a way to expand our images of God is a gift to everyone. Those who call God by the name “Father” are welcomed and encouraged to continue doing so. And those who call God by other names are welcomed and encouraged, too. Worshiping side by side using many names instead of one enriches worship for all of us.

If you regularly use the same name for God in your prayer or worship life, how can you expand and enrich your relationship with God? How might using some new names for God make something new happen for you, too? If you are looking for ideas, consider instead some of these, from the UCC brochure “Expansive Language with Reference to God, Inclusive Language with Reference to God’s People.”

Midwife: Ps 22:9-10; Mother: Num 11:12-13, Deut 32:18, Job 38:28-29, Ps 131:2, Isa 42:14, Isa 46:3-4, Isa 49:15, Isa 6:9, Hos 11:3-4; Jn 16:21,Rom 8:22, 1 Pet 2:2-3; Mother bear: Hos 13:8; Shepherd: Jn 10:11, 14; Ps 23; Woman: Lk 15:8-10, Ps 123,2; Baker: Mt 13:33, Lk 13:20-21; Eagle: Deut 32:11-12, Ex 19:4; Hen Mt 23:37, Ruth 2:12, Ps 57:1, Ps 61:4, Lk 13:34, Ps 17:8; Fire: Deut 4:24, Acts 2:3; Wind: Acts 2:2,Jn 3:8; Rock: Is 17:10, Deut. 32:18; Water: Jer 17:13; Light: Jn 8:12, Isa 60:2-3; Bread: Jn 6:33-35; Vine: Jn 15:1; Word: Jn 1:1; Wisdom: Lk 11:49,1 Cor 1:24; I Am: Ex 3:14; Potter: Jer 18: 1-11, Job 10:8-9.

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Flourishing Mark 4:26-34

Look around. What if just this were enough?

What if this choir were enough, for example?

Consider the miracle that each week, a group of mostly volunteers gathers to sing together in (occasionally im)perfect harmony. Whether there are three of them, or thirty or three hundred, isn’t it some kind of miracle that week after week this group of working folks and retired folks and just plain folks leave their daily occupations and raise their voices together in song?

What if our youth and children were enough? What if instead of worrying about the youth and children we don’t have, we started noticing, naming and celebrating the youth and children we do have? If there are no children in this congregation right now, what if we recognized the abundance of children in our neighborhood, or in our nation or in our world? What if we asked ourselves to notice the way we can be in community with THOSE children?

What if this congregation’s leadership were enough?

What if God has called to this place and time exactly the people with just the skills, passions and gifts of the spirit that are needed for this moment? What if the church of the future is happening right now, today?

What if our church building were enough?

What if God has granted us this space in this time so that we might recognize it not as a burden or a project, but as a gift that we are privileged to steward?

The farmer in today’s scripture throws seeds recklessly on seemingly infertile ground as well as obviously healthy soil. This image invites us to think the same way about our ministries and presence in the world. Rather than being obsessed with scarcity, scanning articles about the church in decline and worrying about the bottom line, what if we looked around at what we do have? What if we allowed ourselves to imagine our church in a new way, as a part of God’s kingdom that has not just enough, but more than enough to share?

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Calling All Musicians

If you would like to furnish special music, or if you have suggestions of persons to offer for special music, please contact the church office at 419-358-5641.

Music is a very important part of the worship services, and we would appreciate everyone’s assistance in helping us to provide this offering in the absence of our choir members.

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God’s Will (Mark 3:20-35)

Today’s scripture tells a story from early in Jesus’s ministry. Jesus is teaching a group of disciples in a crowded house when his family arrives to cart him away, afraid that he has lost his wits. Jesus speaks against his mother and his brothers then, saying that those who follow the will of God are the ones who are his true family.

In this story, we see Jesus bravely following his inner knowing of God’s will for him, instead of the voices that have long told him who and what he is. In his new community of friends and disciples, he knows that he is truly following God’s will.

Have you ever had an experience like this? How has your inner knowing of God’s will made itself known to you in a community that knows and believes in you? How did you respond?

Learning to hear, trust, and follow the way God’s will makes itself known in your life is called discernment. That is why, in the twenty-first century, we in the United Church of Christ call those who are finding their way toward a career in ordained ministry “members in the discernment.”

Discernment about ministry comes from both the nudge of the inner voice, and the affirmation and challenge of a community. According to the Manual on Ministry, the church “Ordained Ministers belong to both God and the people. They are nurtured and sustained by both; they are responsible to both….Ordained ministry is ministry of the Church entrusted to individuals; it is not the ministry of individuals acting independently.”*

In the call of God’s will in your life an affirmation of what you’ve always been told about yourself, or is it an opportunity to listen to new voices in a community you’ve found for yourself later in life? Either way, if you believe you may be called to ordained ministry, ask your pastor to connect you with a representative from your conference or association.

*Manual on Ministry: A Guide to the Authorizing Ministry in the United Church of Christ, Ministerial Excellence, Support and Authorization, Local Church Ministries, A Convenanted Ministry of the United Church of Christ, 2018.

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Celebrating Our Graduates

Congratulations to all of the grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends of members of our congregation who have finished their course work in high schools and universities across the nation.

Congratulations, also, to Bluffton High School graduates who persevered through a challenging 2020-21 school year! Their positive spirit and determination will serve them well in years to come.

May God’s hand continue to guide each graduate as they embark on their journeys through life.

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” — Fred Rogers

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From the Pastor’s Pen: Remembering

                This past week, I watched the high school band march down College Avenue and then back again.  They are preparing for the Memorial Day Parade.  It took me back to my days in high school marching band.  Worthington, where I grew up, always had a large, long Memorial Day Parade.  The parade started at the north end of town and traveled down Rt. 23 south of town with the street lined on both sides with onlookers.  The parade wound its way into and around the town cemetery.  Once in the cemetery, a ceremony honoring those who had given their lives for our freedom took place.

            I was always intrigued by the different speakers at that ceremony.  The men and women who spoke were from different eras of the military and usually gave a good history lesson about the time they were in the service.  I am a history nerd so these firsthand accounts of what I had only read about fascinated me.  I learned a lot of US history standing there in that cemetery.

            My journey in ministry has given me a lot of opportunities to minister to veterans.  My first church was in Chillicothe, OH, where there is a large VA facility.  My first Memorial Day as a parish minister, was spent in my office listening to young veterans talk about their experiences in the war in Iraq and how those experiences impacted their faith.  Many were dealing with mental/emotional wounds, the kind of wounds easily dismissed for not being visible, from their time in the service.  I learned a lot from these young men and women about the realities of war from those who fought.  A different perspective from the one conveyed by politicians and news reporters.

            I have been honored to work with countless different honor guards at the burial of veterans.  I am in awe of their commitment to this duty regardless of the weather.  Since many of these funerals were during the week, the honor guard was mostly older, retired folks.  They stood there in blistering heat or near blizzard conditions or pouring rain or a beautiful sunny day.  They stood there to honor someone they most likely did not know.  But their pride in all who have served led them to be there.  The honor guard portion of the service has always been the most moving part for me.

            I have sat with veterans and spouses of veterans and learned more about the realities of their service to our country and the history of different eras of our history than any movie or history class could ever teach.  We have so much to be thankful for as these brave men and women and their families make sacrifices so that we can live with the freedoms and liberties that we have.  God bless each and every one of them.


                                                                        Pastor Katherine

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Summer Hours for Sunday School and Worship

On Sunday, June 6, St. John’s begins its summer hours which continue through Labor Day Sunday, September 5: Sunday School begins at 9 a.m., and Worship begins at 10 a.m.

Please give yourself a reminder so that you will arrive on time!

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Vacation Bible School Herders

Vacation Bible School is scheduled for July 18 through July 21 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Bluffton. St. John’s UCC is responsible to provide herders for children ages 4 to 7 on the following dates: Monday, July 19, Tuesday, July 20, and Wednesday, July 21. A sign-up sheet is available on the podium near the entrance to the sanctuary. At this time, all vacant slots are filled. Thank you, St. John’s!

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Coffee Hour Following Worship Services

Sunday, May 16, the coffee hour in Oppermann Hall resumes following the worship service. Persons attending should wear their masks until they have taken their refreshments and are seated.

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